How do adults use music for chronic pain relief?

Published by International Association for Music and Medicine on

Research has shown that music can reduce pain perception and intensity. This analgesic effect is believed to be both cognitive and emotional with music being an environmental stimulus that can modify pain perception by inducing the release of endogenous opioids which produce analgesia by activating opioid receptors. In the context of chronic pain (pain persisting or reoccurring over three months) music may have the potential to be developed as a non-pharmacological self-management treatment offering hope and a feeling of control to people who may feel despair. Strategies that give hope and a means of coping may increase pain threshold and lead to a reappraisal of pain.

This study entitled “The Use of Music in the Chronic Pain Experience: An Investigation into the Use of Music and Music therapy by Patients and Staff at a Hospital Outpatient Pain Clinic” builds on previous work in this area looking at how patients with chronic pain use music.

We surveyed one hundred and seven adult patients attending an outpatient pain clinic at a general hospital. The majority of respondents reported benefitting in some way from music listening. The reported benefits ranged from enjoyment to tension relief. Music for relaxation, positive response to music, and music for coping were themes arising from comments by respondents. Music listening was more common than active participation in music.

Seven staff members also completed surveys on their use of music and thoughts on music in this setting. Staff rated music as very beneficial for people with chronic pain and they all saw a role for music in the treatment of patients with chronic pain. This study is one of few to map how people with chronic pain use music to self-care. It proposes that music therapy or music medicine could be offered as a non-pharmacological intervention to assist people in developing music-based resources and strategies for managing chronic pain.

Katie Fitzpatrick. Music therapist and doctoral student at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick.

Original research article by Katie Fitzpatrick, Dr Hilary Moss and Prof Dominic Harmon. Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Fitzpatrick, K., Moss, H., & Harmon, D. C. (2019). The use of music in the chronic pain experience: an investigation into the use of music and music therapy by patients and staff at a hospital outpatient pain clinic. Music and Medicine, 11(1), 6-22.

Featured photo: Medical photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com


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